Sydney's Garden ~ by Darlene Kuncytes

My Sydney

A little over a week ago, I had to say goodbye to one of my beloved fur babies. My Sydney. I have had to do this over the years, and it’s always one of the hardest things to do, but this time hit me particularly hard. I love all my babies. They are my children, but Sydney was special. My Syd was absolutely the gentlest, most loving, submissive dog I have ever had. All she ever wanted out of life was to love and be loved. Well, that and food. LOL My Syders did love to eat!
     There was not a single person or animal that she didn’t love, and was always the first to get right in there with kisses and pleads for belly rubs from whoever came through the door.
     I adopted a puppy-mill survivor years ago, and Syd was there to snuggle up to, and help Huny-gurl adjust to her new life away from the torture and abuse of the mill owners. She helped show Huny that not all humans are disgusting horrible abusers, and these two girls loved each other so much. They would wake up in the mornings and give each other kisses before we started our day.
     Huny is adjusting, but I find myself struggling a bit with this loss. I am blessed to have an amazing support group. Two of my heart squad sisters were there when I needed them most. They insisted on coming over for hugs and even brought over dinner and a beautiful rose bush the night we lost her.
     So, I decided that I would remember my baby in a way of love and beauty. I made her a garden.
     Going with my sister, who has always said that Syd was her favorite and wasn’t afraid to admit it, to pick out the flowers I would plant, and the paw print wind chime and other small memorials was so therapeutic.
     I’m not saying that I wasn’t a blubbering mess when I read the beautiful words of love written on the wind chimes about losing a cherished pet. I’m fairly sure the people in the store made it a point to steer clear of me at that moment. Lol
     But... I came home. I planted. I decorated. I cried. I even put four light up paw prints in the stones at the bottom of the container to light the way. And believe it or not. It helps.
     When I finished, I couldn’t help but smile. Syd loved trudging
Syd''s Garden
through this particular area of the yard. For some reason, she liked to eat the grass in this little corner. Now, when her ashes are ready and she comes home once again, I will take some of them, put them in a small bottle, and bury them here so she will always be a part of her special place.

     I still have my moments. And I will miss that little pumpkin forever. She was truly one of a kind.
     I am the lucky one to have had her with me for the time that I did. I’m so very thankful for her worried looks when someone sneezed, her little whines when I would be busy writing on my computer, and when she just simply NEEDED her belly rubbed so bad.
     It isn’t easy. I read recently that losing a pet can be as difficult as losing a person, and I believe it; but planting Syd’s garden has been the best therapy.


FROM THE STAGE TO THE PAGE~ by TJ Logan

For a lot of writers, one of the most harrowing things they face in their career is delivering a face-to-face pitch to an Editor or Agent. Oh, the horror. Me? Bring it on! I absolutely love it!



What’s a pitch, you ask? Or maybe you didn’t, but I’ll tell you anyway. Pitching is like speed dating, except, instead of trying to impress someone by cramming in as much information about yourself as you can into a few minutes, you’re trying to impress someone by telling them why they should take a chance on you and your book or series. Instead of hoping to find the love of your life, you’re hoping to find the book deal of all book deals.

Here’s how pitching works. Authors register for a conference and have the option to sign-up for pitch appointments with editors from different publishing houses and/or agents looking for new clients. Appointments are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis and they can be highly coveted.

Interesting side note relative to that; when folks don’t get an appointment with the person they really wanted, even if it’s because they waited too long to register, it can turn into the friggin’ gladiator games. Mild-mannered authors can become truly blood-thirsty. Believe me, I know. I’ve been an Editor and Agent Committee Chair for one of the most successful regional conferences in the country. It ain’t pretty, folks.

Anyway, they show up at the conference and receive a goodie bag and a slip of paper with each of their pitch appointment times and are sent on their way to enjoy their conference experience. And to nervously obsess and not sleep all night thinking about their impending face-off. Because let’s be real, this is exactly how most perceive pitch appointments. 

When the day arrives, you show up for your appointment and wait. At least, those people who aren’t too riddled with anxiety and talk themselves out of pitching altogether. Most folks sit quietly, mentally going over a pitch they’ve practiced a bazillion times. Others nervously torture note cards, their lips moving as they silently read them…again. Some pace back and forth, chewing their nails to the quick. A few may sit off to the side with another author, trying out their pitches on each other one last time. 

Their time is called and they’re ushered into a banquet room where editors and agents sit at small tables with two chairs; one for them and one for the person pitching. See? Like speed dating! Your allotted time, which is anywhere from three to ten minutes, is tightly controlled. You are expected to sit down, introduce yourself and immediately start selling your story to this person—this stranger—who, in your mind, controls your entire writing future. All the while, the moderator is pacing around the room looking at his or her watch, and you’d swear you can practically hear the dang thing ticking in your ear.

That said, I’m the weirdo who can’t wait to get in that room and deliver my pitch. Did I mention I love doing pitches? Crazy, right? What can I say? I’m always excited when I have a chance to sit down and talk to anyone about my story, or pretty much anything, really. Hello! Extrovert here!

Part of that comes from growing up with five brothers and being raised by parents who were on the cutting edge of the whole free-range parenting thing. (see my previous blog) The Accidental Author. You had to be tough, outgoing, the loudest one in the room, or you weren’t heard. You could basically disappear and no one would notice. Okay, that might be a bit dramatic, but as a kid, that’s how it felt.

As if that didn’t toughen me up enough, I’m also a veteran of the community theater trenches. You want to talk about intense and cut-throat. Sheesh! If you think sitting across the table from one person and telling them about a story you created and wrote is challenging, try standing on a stage at an audition with ten other women—a couple who are secretly wishing for a pox to fall upon you and your kin—all vying for the same part. 

Not to mention being rejected by a director because you’re a little too old, too young (alas, this never happened to me), too short, too tall, too thin, too heavy, or your profile’s too sharp (true story). Did I mention this was just to have the chance to spend eight grueling weeks rehearsing and giving up weekends to be in a show that’s going to run thirty times? Oh, and you’re doing it all for free while you take care of your family and work your real job.

Funny thing is, had my husband not basically forced me to give it a try, I never would’ve considered getting involved with theater. Not because I was afraid to be up in front of people. Oh, heavens no. Can you say, put me in front and I’m good to go? It was because, at first, I didn’t think I had what it took to be up there. I didn’t think I was as good as some of the other women. Sometimes that was true, others, not so much. And let’s face it, nobody likes rejection.

Starting with my first show, singing from all the way in the back row, I paid attention and watched better actors do their thing. I listened to everything, asked a million questions, took singing lessons, researched shows, auditioned and got rejected over and over again. Then, as if by magic, the big parts started rolling in and I never looked back. 


Which brings me to my fellow authors—my tribe. That word might be overused these days, but it is absolutely true. They are some of the most supportive and bravest people I’ve ever met. Most are extreme introverts. They leave their sweats, yoga pants, or cozy jammies and the comforting solitude of home to venture out to conferences that are noisy and packed with people bustling about. People who, heaven forbid, might try to strike up a conversation with them. All of this is their nightmare scenario. 

These authors step outside their comfort zone and take risks and open themselves to criticism and rejection because they love storytelling and know their writing will be richer for it. 

Rejection and brutal honesty made me tough. I grew a pretty thick skin and learned not to take things too personally. This liberated my mind like nothing else could have, ushering in the ability to shut up and really listen to people who knew more than I did. Without getting my panties in a bunch. These are critical elements in my continuing journey to be the absolute best writer I can be. Without them, I wouldn’t be publishing the first three books in my O’Halleran Security International series this year. For that, I send out a big THANKS for all those times I was rejected and to all those people who gave it to me straight!


TJ Logan's debut novel, Deadly Secret releases on August 21st and is currently available for preorder.



 

Life without my four-legged shadows ~ by Joanne Jaytanie


It’s impossible to believe my sweet Maya left this world a year ago today. How can it feel like both just a moment ago and a lifetime when I last held her? I still can’t put away the condolence cards. The nail grinder is on the back porch exactly where I left it, the last time I did her nails. Her bed next to my desk and another next to our bed are still ready to be slept on. As long as these things remain in place, I still have a part of her.  

So often I hear her high-pitched whine when I’m upstairs or walking up to the house. I open the front door still expecting to see Maya and Tristan, vying for position, stubs snapping back and forth, their noses pushing into my hands. 



I’ve had at least one and as many as five, four-legged shadows for my entire adult life until this last year. I was sure Maya would be my last. I knew it would be different, not having a Doberman in my life, but I fooled myself into believing it would be okay. It’s the little things that still make me tear up…






Walking into the house and not having my welcoming party.












Always by my side – even in the bathroom.






Putting them to bed and covering them up.

Drooling and staring while I prepare meals.



The constant shadow that I’d learned to maneuver around years ago.









Stepping over dogs whenever I get up from watching tv.









The Doberman grin.













Serving as the attendant to the ever-revolving door.








Waking up each morning greeted by a dog thrilled to see me.







Playing in the snow.












Always having someone to talk to who just wanted to hear my voice.





My constant companion laying right next to me while I’m at my desk.






The ever-vigilant sentry. 













The seconds before I drift off at night thinking about how much I miss them. 

Yes, dogs cost money to feed, care for, splurge on, take on vacation. They take time out of your day. They may even be what you schedule your day around. You arrange your house and design your yards to accommodate them. They will get sick, and they will break your heart. You must weigh the heartbreaking cost of losing them to the absolute joy of having the unconditional love each and every day they are with you - which we all know is never enough time.

Three hundred and sixty-five days have gone by since I lost my Maya. I miss you to the stars and back, my sweet girl. I keep waiting for the terrible ache in my heart to subside. 





Moti-Moti-Motivation! And the Why Behind It… by Andi Lawrencovna

    
photo courtesy of Pexels.com
As a writer, and especially as an editor, I am constantly asking the question: What is “your” motivation?  
photo courtesy of Pexels.com

     




I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m a BIG Game of Thrones fan. Not a super-fan, mind you…I watch the show, don’t read the books, but whatever. Anyways, we are currently, in my family, watching the final season alongside the other millions of viewers engrossed in the show, but I have a problem.
     We, as humans, know our motivations, generally speaking. They’re actually, usually, not that complex. Go to school to get a job to make some money to support yourself (and/or your family) until you can retire and, well, you know…the rest of it all. You hear stories about “so and so” who went off to get revenge for her brother who was killed in a car accident. Or a parent was a cop/politician/etc. and I want to do that to honor them.
     Okay, so, yeah, technically motivations, but “why” are those your motivations? What else is there to make you want to accomplish this goal? What are you going to do after it is accomplished?
     Motivation isn’t just about the “why” of doing something then, but about the “then” that follows it.
     

photo courtesy of pexels.com
So, for instance, let’s take the Night King in GoT. (Spoiler…ish…but he’s the big supernatural bad guy of the series.) The Night King’s purpose is to kill all humans and make them into his zombie slaves. 

     Apparently, that was his original purpose for why he was created…until he then rebelled and killed his creators. But he’s apparently still all gung-ho about accomplishing that initial goal of human annihilation. Why? What is he gonna get from that once it’s done? 
     Let’s say the Night King wins the war against the living, conquers the known world, and all that is left are his zombies and his commanders. What the heck is gonna happen now?
     “Job well done boys, okay, well, I’m gonna go take a nap. Carry on without purpose for the rest of eternity in a world of ice where you don’t need to eat or drink to survive and the only other people out there for companionship are rotting corpses that don’t have any intelligent thoughts of their own. Cheerio!”
     No one else has a problem with this scenario?
     Why is the Night King so bent on this outcome!?!?
     From a writing perspective, George R.R. Martin has never written from the Point of View of the Night King. We’ve never seen into his head or anything like that, but, of the literally hundreds of characters he has written: HOW HAS NO ONE QUESTIONED THIS YET?
     The part of a story that is most compelling, the part of life that is most compelling, isn’t having a goal to achieve, because we all have that goal at some point or other. The point of life that is most compelling, is what you are going to do once that goal is accomplished, what emotions that accomplishment will engender. What will you achieve next,? Does reaching that goal offer satisfaction, or regret?
     In the case of the Night King…well, we’ll never know now.
     Don’t waste so much time on the achieving that you forget to embrace what comes after, that you forget the reason why you are doing it, or what you are going to do once it is done.
     I’m going to make my fortune, and then retire with my family to a private island so we can all live out our lives in peace and harmony. Why? Because I don’t trust our current political status and would rather be somewhere safe than somewhere where I don't know what safety means. 
     What happens once you get there? A chance to start anew because once you get there, there will be no one to tell me I can’t. But that chance will be on my terms, whatever those terms might be.
     The story is there, in that moment after achievement. In the

photo courtesy of pinterest
denouement that is often left to silly phrases that mean nothing and everything at once: They lived happily ever after. 
     The point is that they lived, but if we don’t know that “why they wanted to,” then it’s a shallow life we see.
     I know what GoT has said about the Night King’s motivation. I just want to know MORE about it and what he was hoping to achieve after it was accomplished. Is that too much to ask!?!?!
    Probably. But don’t ever stop asking it of yourselves.


Upstate New York- The Rustic Adirondack Mountains ~ by Author Jennifer Daniels

Star Lake
If you are looking for an escape from the hustle and bustle of life, try coming to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York. Born and raised at Star Lake, NY there is so much you can do in the surrounding areas.

Summers are always very busy in Upstate, NY. Many Retired and Urban folks come to stay at their cottages during these months. For us that live or grew up on the lake know of the sandbar. This is where everyone goes on their floating docks, kayaks, paddle boards and boats. You name it, that is where the action is. It’s a place to catch up with old friends, fire up the grills, and have a drink.

Another sight to see, is Lake George (where the Great Escape Fun Park is.) The whole family can come and enjoy all of the many rides they have to offer, then to cool off at the Wave Pool or Lazy River. Those are my favorites, but there are lots of dry and wet rides to enjoy.

A must do, is Parasailing! It is amazing. My husband, son and I did

this about six years ago and was one of the most incredible things I have ever done. The view is remarkable, although my son was not a fan. If this isn't your cup of tea, slow down and take in some history, check out Fort William Henry, or go on a guided tour and learn about the French and Indian War.

If you get the opportunity, visit the Thousand Island Region, Bolt Castle or Singer Castle. It’s accessible by one of the tour boats that is offered for a day cruise or you can do an extended tour and enjoy a dinner cruise. Depending on your visit you might find yourself in a themed weekend... for example, Pirates weekend. But it’s not only busy during the day, you can wind down with a double feature at one of the nostalgic Drive-in movie theaters.

Camping is huge here in the Adirondacks and there are campsites everywhere. One campground that my family enjoys is Higley
Flow State Park in Colton, NY. They do many fun things with the kids. As a family, you can take short hikes around the park. Then, to end the evening, enjoy a meal cooked on the fireplace. For dessert toast yourself up a S'mores and look at the night sky. Simplicity at its best!

In the Fall you can enjoy site seeing. The leaves are a rainbow of
colors... Bright orange, red, yellow and green. The smell of the leaves are so crisp and enjoyable to see, however, you know that winter is around the corner.

Lake Placid, where the Winter Olympics took place in 1932 and again in 1980, is in the area. During your visit, stop by the Olympic Center and museum. There are several places to hike in the area. When you need a break, stop at the various shops to pick up souvenirs. In the winter bring your snow shoe gear for the many trails you can explore or bring along your skies and enjoy the slopes of MT. VanHoevenberg.

Saranac Lake host’s a Winter Carnival and the focal point is the amazing Ice Castle constructed from blocks of ice harvested from
the Lake. At night the castle is colorfully lit. Concluding the first day of the festivities is an amazing firework show. Throughout the week there are different activities you can participate in or just take another tour of this iconic Ice Castle.

Among these activities there are many ski resorts that are fun to try
out for a long weekend. The frozen lakes and trails are busy with  snowmobiles and ice fishing. Snowmobilers are always a thoughtful group, helping one another with any break downs along the trail or pointing you to the next town, restaurant, or pub.

This is just a small piece of all the fun that can be had here in the Adirondack Mountains. I hope you will come visit.




Jennifer Daniels lives in upstate New York with her husband, son, and fur baby. You can reach out to Jennifer at

Memories of Rose Festival by Grace Augustine

photo courtesy of  Portland Rose Festival
This time of year my mind...and my heart...long to be in Portland, Oregon. Every June, Portland transforms into an even more beautiful place as the preparations for Rose Festival get underway. This year the annual City Fair carnival begins May 24th and Fleet Week begins June 5th.


photo courtesy of  KATU-TV
What is Fleet Week? Since it's beginning in 1907, visiting ships and other vessels, such as submarines, make their way to the Portland Waterfront.  It is a favorite port of call for military and civilians. When I resided in Portland in the late 70's, residents would adopt sailors for the 5 days they were docked. It was a time of celebration to thank those active and reserve military for their service. The Waterfront and Rose Festival are hosts to the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and Royal Canadian Navy vessels from June 5 through 10th this year.


photo courtesy of Portland Rose Festival
The Portland Rose Festival Dragon Boat Races are held on the Willamette River at Tom McCann Park on June 8th and 9th this year. This annual cultural event is hosted by the Portland-Kaohsiung Sister City Association (PKSCA.) 1989 saw the first race with 31 teams registered to compete. The popularity of this race has grown to 90 teams from all over the world. They race in Taiwan-style dragon boats; each boat accommodates 20 paddlers, 1 tiller, 1 caller, and 1 flag catcher required for each race heat.


photo courtesy of  Portland Rose Festival
The highlight of this annual event is the Grand Floral Parade. This year the parade is sponsored by Spirit Mountain Casino and takes place at 10 am Saturday, June 8th. It is second only to the Pasadena Rose Parade in it's use of floral materials that must cover every inch of the floats. The 4 mile route  begins at Memorial Coliseum,crosses the Willamette River and winds through downtown to crowds of cheering people admiring the beautiful work of the floats and enjoying the many equestrian units and bands.


photo courtesy of  Portland Rose Society

And, if this isn't enough...The Portland Rose Society Annual Spring Rose Show, the nation’s largest and longest-running rose show, brings more than 4,000 blooms to the Lloyd Center Ice Rink.




photo courtesy of International Rose Gardens
If you live in the Pacific NW, I highly recommend you spend some time in Portland, The City of Roses. You won't forget your stay...While there, you may consider taking in Saturday Market, going to OMSI, the Japanese Gardens, spending time at the lovely International Rose Gardens, or touring the breathtaking Pittock Mansion.  Portland has so much to offer...why not see for yourself?

To read more of my posts, please visit Grace's Member Page

“All at once, amazing and frustrating.”~ By Ralph Duncan

Such was my reflection on a one-of-a-kind art workshop I attended a while back while flying home from New Orleans to Seattle. This workshop by American Watercolor Artist Mary Whyte had been at the top of my bucket list for some time. 

But, I should back up a little.



I had this workshop on my schedule for more than a year. I was a little apprehensive about taking a workshop from such a prominent artist. While she is a formally trained artist and has painted extensively in oils, pastels, and pencil her medium of choice for more than two decades has been watercolors. Her passion is painting people in their environments. Not just portraits, but pieces that tell stories of those she paints. She feels that watercolors particularly lend themselves to producing luminous skin tones and effects.

Following her passion to paint those that seem to have fallen off the radar she has spent the last 20 or so years telling the stories of her neighbors, the Gullah women of St. Johns Island in South Carolina.  Her desire to paint the dying trades has carried her hundreds, if not thousands, of miles traveling the South looking for those that just work and toil, a sometimes barely subsisting by the sweat of their brow.

I was determined, before walking into that workshop to read every book by and about her and watch every video. I spent the entire last month focusing on studying mixes for skin color and drawing and painting the human face. Although practice always helps, I wasn’t quite prepared for what came next. 

Mary had us painting for three straight days, three different models with different skin colors, trying several advanced watercolor techniques. It was certainly challenging and I will be practicing for some time to come. 

She got us started by listing 3 class rules:  
1) there are no stupid questions, 
2) you must tell at least one joke, and 
3) you must paint at least one bad painting. “Don’t worry,” she said, your real workshop and your good paintings will start next week in your own studios when you start practicing these techniques.”


I have to say, the most challenging was to get deep darks with objects that blend together within the shadow, without making mud.

Over the three days, Mary demonstrated for about 6 hours, students drawing and painting for 10-11 hours, and discussions about materials, equipment, painting into shadows, mixing colors, composition and creating dominance in one’s painting. Finally, she reserves the last hour of each day as an open discussion on the “Nuts and Bolts” of being an artist. This included topics like what it takes to be an artist, how to decide what to paint, how to price and market your work, what her typical workday looks like, and what your job is an artist. It was a packed three days, winding up with an open critique of the student art.

Of course, then there was New Orleans. Our evening activities included a class dinner at an upscale restaurant, sampling the New Orleans own drink -Sazerac- and two jazz clubs that included the Snug Harbor featuring Charmeine Nevelle and her band. (Aaron Nevelle’s niece btw). 



That last thing Mary left us with was this, “Never say, I want to paint it, but it is too hard.” Mary is a brilliant and skilled painter and an excellent teacher and she is committed to both.

The workshop kept me busy in my studio at home as well. I made several attempts at the piece we worked on in New Orleans. I think I have a ways to go, but, it was a once in a lifetime experience to study with the Master.



Writing--My Retirement Plan

Writing--My Retirement Plan~by Lexa Fisher
(and a dirty little secret)




Several years ago I began contemplating how I could keep my brain active after retirement, which is still a few years away. It had to be something challenging, something that would inspire me to continue learning. I landed on writing--a topic about which I knew nothing. It seemed like the perfect answer, and one that would keep me mentally active for years.

Not being a procrastinator, ten years ahead of my planned retirement date I bravely enrolled in a popular fiction writing class at the University of Washington. The classes were well organized and the instructor incorporated many examples to illustrate the lessons. 

Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Then came the anxiously awaited day for individual consultations on our projects. I found out that I was writing romance! Now here's the Dirty Little Secret--I'd never read a romance book in my life. At the time, my library consisted primarily of cozy mysteries, and that's what I thought I was writing. The story I worked on during class had a man and a woman, and a mystery for them to solve. And they fell in love. 

To prove her point that it was a romance, the instructor asked if it would be the same story without their relationship. My throat constricted and my voice quavered as I replied, "No, they have to find everlasting happiness as soul mates." My instructor just smiled.

Photo by Laura Ockel on Unsplash
Well, if I was writing romance, it was time to find a romance story to read. I soon picked up my first romance and haven't stopped writing or reading this genre. It's uplifting, and whether it is sweet romance (nothing past "second base"), paranormal, historical, or other romance sub-genres, there is always a happy ending. Heroine and hero struggle against the odds (and maybe solve a mystery along the way), and they always come out stronger together.

My instructor also urged me to look into Romance Writers of America, RWA. I soon joined a local RWA chapter and several online chapters. There are ample opportunities to continue learning about the craft at the annual RWA meetings, monthly meetings of my local chapter, and regular online classes offered through RWA and the online chapters. I've found the fulfilling mental challenge I wanted, and made many new friends.

Mysteries still appeal to me, and I can't help but incorporate a mystery in most of the stories that I write. After all, isn't love the greatest mystery?


Photo by Alejandra Quiroz on Unsplash



To view more posts, visit Lexa's Member Page










Lakeside Living 3: They Share, Why Can't You?~by Ruth Ross Saucier

Living on a lake in the country means you live alongside a variety of animals, but you definitely rent from raccoons.  

It was 5 a.m. when my spouse went into the adjacent bedroom to get ready for work.  He flipped on the light, pulled some clothes out of the closet, and turned toward the window.  There, peering in from the darkness outside, were three little faces in a row: an entire raccoon litter, eagerly waiting to supervise his work clothes choices. (The window was on the second floor, but there was a roof below the window sill, so they were supported quite well, thank you.) They made eye contact but scampered away when they realized he was too close, too big, and could see them, too.

You see, I had made an inspired decision to build a huge arbor (a twelve-foot-high, fourteen-foot-long, three-foot-wide statement) all around our huge living room window. In my vision, the vines would grow up and over, shading the window in the summer; it would be beautiful! What I did not anticipate was the opportunity the arbor provided. It became a superhighway for a mother raccoon, who loved the arbor for training her triplets to climb, for the safety it provided by getting the kids off the ground, and for the ability to access the roof.  There was a nook on the roof that provided perfect shelter from the wind, great views all around, and the perfect place to nest.  Charming, right?

     Well, there was also a corner up there on the roof just full of beautiful purple raccoon poop.  (Berries were in season.) Later we discovered that the corner was quite aromatic, but more importantly, we also discovered that the composite roof couldn’t hold up to the constant barrage of acidic leavings, so eventually it began to leak. 


     
     The superhighway was also part of a path through the yard. Why walk on grass, when you and the kids can go via arbor? You get to climb up, saunter across, and then head straight down, face first to the other side! After summitting the Great Arbor, the official raccoon path meandered across the deck and into the forest—an invisible path I didn’t know existed. 

     One lovely afternoon I was nearly immobilized, all wrapped up in my hanging chair on the deck. I was reading a good book, but nearly dozing in the afternoon heat when light scraping noises came from my left. Without moving, I peeked through the chair mesh and saw a baby raccoon sauntering across the deck toward me. My adrenaline soared and my eyes popped open, but I managed to stay perfectly still and breathe through my mouth.  Sure enough, right behind Baby One came Baby Two and Baby Three, and oh crap, Mama was last in line.  None of them had seen me yet, but Baby One was within four feet of me. 

     To move or not to move? Tick. Tick. Tick. Wait and hope they walked right by me or reveal I’m here right away? One more second later I made a small involuntary motion, and Mama’s head jerked up and spotted me. The babies were still oblivious though, and by now all three had come within eight feet of me without realizing I was hanging there.  Mama, however, snarled right at me, never losing eye contact. Babies Two and Three immediately took the hint and ran off the deck and across the grass. Hot on their bushy tails, Mama chased them to a spot behind a small bulkhead, where the three of them peered back at me on the deck.  

     Baby One, however, was clearly the family doofus. He looked around, clueless, and ambled so close he was nearly under my chair. Mama leapt over the bulkhead and screamed at him, clearly telling him to get his little raccoon heinie away from the hideous human. By now my brain was gibbering, sure that Mama was going to leap into my lap, rearrange my face, and give me rabies in order to save her one slow learner.  Doofus startled and finally got a clue: he sprinted off to join his family.  Mama proceeded to lead the crew into the forest and circled around to a tree that was about twenty feet away.  She climbed six feet up the tree and chivied her youngsters up the tree ahead of her, periodically stopping to glower down at me, growl and hiss, and push her kids to further heights.  

     Once they were all high enough in the tree she paused, turned back to find me (still in my chair) and make eye contact, and snarled yet again to warn me off before joining the kids at the top of the tree. She clearly held a deep-seated dislike that I tried not to take personally…once my heart stopped pounding in my head, that is.


For more posts by this author click:  Ruth Ross Saucier Author Page


Summer Cocktails! ~ by Kim Hornsby


With summer’s warmer weather quickly approaching, I’m trying to get my backyard in shape for living on the patio from sunup to sundown. I like to write on my laptop at the backyard table staring at the garden. As a matter of fact, I’m staring at my fishpond right now watching hummingbirds feed at our little red feeders all over the property.


What I really want after mowing the yard, cleaning the fishpond and re-screening one of the patio doors, is an exotic cocktail. You know those drinks that have fun names, are pink and come with a slice of something citrus on the side? I love trying new drinks like this one my writer friends at a retreat ordered for me called Dream Come True.

Here’s a few cocktails you might enjoy this summer, whether you’re inside getting quietly smashed in front of the TV or outside with friends enjoying the fresh air in your backyard!

The Whiskey Smash

Fresh Lemon Juice
Whiskey
Mint
Simple Syrup or Agave Syrup

The picture is a bit misleading since I used a blend of Whiskey and Rye, an all Rye version is fantastic as well. Either muddle the Mint at the bottom of the glass or give it a good clap between your hands to release the oils. Fill the glass with ice and fill it 2/3 with Lemon Juice (about 3-4 lemons) and 1/3 Whiskey. It is pretty tart as is, so a shot of Simple Syrup helps to balance out the cocktail.


FIRST BLOOM          
      
2 oz. Material Vodka
75 oz. Lemon Juice
75 oz. Lavender Mint Syrup
5 oz. St. Germain


Combine vodka, lemon juice, lavender mint syrup and St. Germain in shaker with ice.

Shake for 20 seconds.

Strain into a coupe glass.

Garnish with a cherry blossom sprig if you have one.


                               
The Paloma


2 ounces silver tequila
2 ounces fresh grapefruit juice
½ ounce fresh lime juice
¼ ounce St. Germain
¼ ounce simple syrup
Lime or grapefruit wheel, for garnish








In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine the tequila with the grapefruit juice, lime juice, St. Germain and simple syrup. Shake well and strain into an ice-filled bucket glass. Serve immediately, garnished with a lime or grapefruit wheel.


                                   Mojito Slushie 

1/2 c. fresh lime juice (about 4 to 6 limes)
1/4 c. agave
1/3 c. fresh mint leaves
Zest of 2 limes
1/2 c. light rum
ice
Mint sprigs, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish


Add the lime juice, agave, mint leaves, lime zest, and rum to a blender. Blend until smooth. Fill the blender to top with ice and blend until slushy.

Pour into glasses, garnishing each with a sprig of mint and a lime slice.

Enjoy, Everyone! 

Do you have a favorite summer drink with or without alcohol?





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